Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh helped found a group that is the top contributor to a SuperPAC supporting his re-election bid.
Walsh's campaign says he hasn't been involved with the group, Americans for Limited Government, for a decade. By law, SuperPACs and the candidates they support cannot have direct contact.
The group's connection to the Washington, D.C.-based Now or Never SuperPAC was included in federal campaign funding documents filed Monday and was pointed out by Walsh's Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, who questioned the propriety.
Meanwhile, Walsh attacked Duckworth for being several hours late in filing her complete third-quarter campaign finance report. He has subsequently filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
Now or Never SuperPAC jumped into the 8th Congressional District race last month, making several large ad buys on local television stations, the first immediately after it received its first check from Americans for Limited Government. In all, the SuperPAC has spent close to $2 million supporting Walsh, of McHenry, and opposing Duckworth, according to filings with the FEC.
In turn, Now or Never received $1.95 million in donations from Americans for Limited Government, a Fairfax, Va.-based group co-founded by Walsh in 1996. Americans for Limited Government donated $1 million to the SuperPAC on Sept. 17 and $950,000 on Sept. 28, FEC filings show.
As a nonprofit, Americans for Limited Government isn't required to disclose its donors. And Rick Manning, a spokesman for the group, noted Tuesday that the group does not make a practice of doing so.
Manning backed up Walsh's campaign in saying the McHenry Tea Partyer had not been involved with the group since 2002. Campaign officials said Walsh did not know the group was still in existence until Tuesday morning.
Americans for Limited Government and Walsh share similar viewpoints on a number of issues, including calling for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, referring to Social Security and Medicare as "Ponzi schemes" and opposing the federal transportation bill, which was passed with bipartisan support over the summer. While the group has touted Walsh's positions on several issues -- including his push last month for tougher voter integrity laws -- Manning said, "in terms of regular operating procedure Joe Walsh has been treated like any other member of Congress. ... I think if you look at the archives and the mentions you'll find that there are relatively few and far between (occasions) where we even mention him."
Walsh has said he voted against the transportation bill because he did not like provisions attached to the legislation.
Now or Never spokesman Tyler Harber said the group secured support from Americans for Limited Government "after we demonstrated effectiveness and presented our independent expenditure plan."
The SuperPAC has only invested in one other race besides the Illinois 8th District -- the U.S. Senate primary in Missouri, where it supported Republican Sarah Steelman, who lost.
Harber said Americans for Limited Government "isn't dictating how Now or Never PAC spends its money."
The 8th Congressional District sweeps from Barrington Hills in the far northwest corner through Schaumburg to Villa Park and Oakbrook Terrace and includes portions of Kane, Cook and DuPage counties. It is high on the list of seats Democrats hope to gain to retake the House majority. Walsh and supporters are doing everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen.
Duckworth highlighted the SuperPAC's funding -- and Walsh's co-founding of Americans for Limited Government -- at a Bloomingdale news conference about transportation issues with area mayors Tuesday afternoon. Both she and Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called for tougher disclosure laws that would shed more light on the individuals donating to Americans for Limited Government.
"At the very minimum there should be a disclosure," Durbin said. "Who are these people? Why are they buying these ads? They clearly have some political ax to grind." Walsh, in turn, hit back at Duckworth for failing to file a complete third-quarter campaign finance report with the FEC by the deadline at midnight Monday. In an email blast, he told supporters he'd filed a complaint with the commission.
"She is now trying to bring up a phantom connection between Congressman Walsh and SuperPACs to change the subject away from the fact that she just broke federal law," Walsh spokesman Justin Roth said.
Duckworth had initially only uploaded September fundraising totals instead of the required three-month report. A full report was uploaded Tuesday morning.
Duckworth spokesman Anton Becker called the filing issue an error that was corrected within several hours. "Clearly there was no conspiracy," he said.